I started this off on kind of a grim note, but I want to leave on a hopeful one. 2016 was a fucking mess for a lot of us. It’ll continue to be a mess going forward. A lot of people are freaking out and despairing over this, and it’s understandable--but it doesn’t have to be the only reaction. Games have been a major thing that’s kept me going through all the hard times of my life, this year and all years prior, first as a player and later as a developer. It’s easy to downplay games as a whole as being somewhat trivial or just for idle distraction, but that’s a failure of imagination. Games can tell powerful stories, connect us to each other, or even just make the day easier to get through when we need it. Making games can lets us make tiny worlds that are nice to spend some time in, or more closely resemble the ones we wish we lived in and invite others into them with us. There’s so much power to do so many good things with that, and the easiest way to remind yourself of the good in the world is to create more of it.
So if you’ve ever felt like you want to make a game, there’s no better time than the present. I mean that as more than a platitude--the free tools, information, and other resources available to help you do just that are more numerous than ever. I’ve made some that might be useful to you if you don’t know where to start. If making games would make your world a little brighter, or if you want to make other people’s worlds a little brighter too, I can’t suggest just giving it a try enough.
Destroy “game stores.”
Only play games that they have contempt for, with people that they have contempt for, in spaces where they don’t exist.
If they think you're their friend, if they are comfortable around you, then you are complicit in their acts of violence.
Further reading: link
Rationalists are rarely rational,
Objectivists are anything but,
Realists hold views completely at odds with reality,
And nationalists have very little faith in their or their nation-state's future.
Don't get me started on people whose publicly-facing identities (like Twitter profiles) say that they're a husband, wife, father, mother, or Christian. The more they harp on it, the more they probably suck at it.
I've also noticed that neoliberal Reddit atheists have very firm beliefs about the nature of God and how one should relate to him, and aren't shy about preaching those beliefs. But if you've read my earlier entries, you already know that.
Clarification (or "wow, you seem upset")
I'm actually in a more or less okay mood right now. There's just been some drama going on in the tabletop gaming community, where a well-respected figure basically wrote an apologium for abuse and was publicly scandalized by someone getting mad at their harasser (of several years). A bunch of women called this figure out for making them less credible and their lives more dangerous, and he went on to write like five pages of 'splaining, while a ton of guys cheered him on.
So this has been one of those weekends. -_- And it's affecting people I care about.
On the plus side, new episodes of Steven Universe are running every weekday for the next two weeks, and apparently something big's happening. So, public service announcement: Even if you're normally okay with spoilers, mcburnett, one of the series' writers, says that you really really shouldn't spoil these episodes.
Now to commence two weeks of nerve-wracking tension, including a three-parter separated by a weekend. o-o;
tbh being apolitical is a privilege. some people can't ignore politics bcs politics attack their identity on a daily basis
My existence is apparently the subject of heated political (and theological) debate. As is my right to exist.
Perhaps unfortunately, for people who have decided to be my opponents, I intend to go on existing. And talking about what I go through.
Maybe we can just be friends instead? Playing tabletop games is a lot more fun than arguing. Especially when the whole substance of your argument is "you can't be real, because if you are I would need to rethink my life."
So, we read an excerpt from the intro to a history book on the First Succession War, which was a mad scramble for land and resources after a political upheaval.
It reminded us of how much we love BattleTech sometimes, and why:
It was a week before my nineteenth birthday when we learned that Amaris had been captured and the [coup] was over. Naïvely, we thought things would get back to how they were before, in our parents’ day. How quickly we were disabused of that notion. The dukes knew things would only get worse and all the patriotic noise Kenyon had made was soon supplanted by something more authoritarian. We were just the wrong age, the perfect age to serve.
My boyfriend, Joe, was one of those called up that autumn, thrown into a boot-camp and then shipped off-world to fill out a line unit. I never saw him again—he died on Anegasaki when the Capellans killed the Fourth Militia. I was luckier I suppose, drafted into the planetary militia, so at least I was near home where it was safe and quiet. At least at first.
Then Kenyon got a mind to take over all the Star League facilities, following up on the rumors that Kerensky had left vast stockpiles on-world. That may have been true, but after four years spent on that wild goose, with little more than field rations, toilet paper, and SLDF recruitment pamphlets to show for it, the FWLM shifted their attention elsewhere. That didn’t save me from a grilling by SAFE—several in fact—because of who Gramps was, and his involvement with the Engineering Sub-Command. He died when I was nine, but even so, SAFE struggled to accept that a pre-teen knew nothing about SLDF activity. Dad got it much worse, and was held at the facility in Freeport for three weeks before they decided that the English teacher from Durandel High wasn’t going to give them much help either.
In those days, the years before the start of the Succession War, I did wonder: if this is how badly we treat our own people, how are things going to go when we start shooting at people we don’t like?
Compare and contrast, with how 40k portrays warfare. And authority, and nationalism. Even if you read 40k as a dystopian satire, where the Imperium is meant to be seen as brutal, you rarely get such a personal look, at the price that ordinary people pay for you to dress up in armour and play as a "hero." To satisfy your vain ambition, for power or wealth or heroics.
40k isn't alone in erasing civilians and glamourizing warfare, of course. Don't get me started on dudebro shooters. >_>; With the extremely subversive exception of Spec Ops: The Line.
For another good take (IMO) on how BattleTech portrays conflict, check out the short story at the start of the Alpha Strike Quick-Start rules (PDF link). A private military contractor called Wolf's Dragoons catches a desperate foe completely off-guard, and an enemy MechWarrior has an obvious mental breakdown, but there's no guarantee that she won't recover once they've gone past. So Natasha just shoots her mech's legs out and moves on. Even though she has TEH RAEG because of something the other side's employer did to Dragoon dependents.
Finally, if you want to support a PC / tabletop game that tells the story of people who live in the ruins that "heroes" and generals fight over, check out This War of Mine:
Armed conflict is a terrific backdrop for drama. But it isn't a playground or theme park, and it shouldn't be treated as one.
We got to try out a game of Endless Fantasy Tactics with Alias, a day or two ago. It was pretty fun!
It's basically Final Fantasy Tactics: the minis game. Which means we had to draw an isometric map, and HP/MP counters for everyone. Oh, and it uses stat cards normally, so we printed out lists with our models' stats on them instead.
Technically you don't have to go to these lengths. They sell decks of cards for all of the models and items, plus a beginner set with a reconfigurable 3d board. But we wanted to start with the core rulebook, and we figured it wouldn't take that long to make our own play aids.
Turns out, it did ^^; partly because we had to learn how to do layout in Pages first. And then when we actually started playing, our large-sized models took a hit for each square they stand on, every time Alias' Lunarian bunnies AOE'd.
(The gels all want to be heroes, or something. It's awesome.)
Anyway, we'll probably be playing this more in the future. And here are some more pics of the play aids we created / used, behind the cut:
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Warmachine, and its companion game, Hordes, were made in the United States. Warhammer 40,000 was made in Great Britain.
The more I think about it, the more I feel like this explains a lot of the differences between the two games.
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"Grimdark" means different things to different people. To some (but definitely not all) 40k players it's a realization of their fantasies ... of being the Defender Of All That Is Normal and getting to shoot up those icky, scary outsiders.
See, the great thing about the Tau isn't just their anime mecha.
It's that despite being small and "insignificant," they keep winning. Against the fascist, blood-and-skulls-loving Imperium. Not because they are better at dealing death, or because their technology is more advanced, but because they value diversity. They make friends out of their enemies, and work together to make things better for everyone.
Also, we like acting out fantasy lazor battles with our miniatures. Battles which are about as far removed from actual warfare and gun fetishism as magical girl anime is.
Now if only there were a magical girl minis game.
I don't have the energy to look up citations right now. But I feel like the history of tabletop games is largely the history of diverse, fannish groups adopting games that catch on because they are "good enough" for the time. And then watching as the next 30-40 years see the people who made these games get a lot of unearned power and capital, until they are dictating the shape of their hobbies to everyone else.
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A box of Fire Warriors would come with the following:
- Six, instead of twelve, Fire Warriors. (Gun drones are sold separately.)
- Twelve cards with artwork and rules text.
- One "SERGEANT" token for the Shas'ui.
- Six "WOUND" tokens.
- One "PINNED" token.
- One "FEAR" token.
- One "CHALLENGE" token.
- One "GO TO GROUND" token.
- One "PHOTON GRENADE" token, double-sided to show if you've thrown it this turn.
- One "EMP GRENADE" token, also double-sided.
- Four "BLIND" tokens to put on the targets you hit with the photon grenade.
- One token to show that they're inside a transport.
- And one last token, to show that they're in reserve.
You would not be able to use it unless you had bought the WARHAMMER 40,000 STARTER SET for $99, which includes one Space Marine Dreadnought and three Chaos bikers. Along with blast templates, cardboard range rulers, two decks of cards in different sizes, twelve six-sided dice with weird symbols on them, an insert that says where to download the dice-roller app, and enough different kinds of tokens that only fishers and jewelry hobbyists already have an appropriate box for them on hand.
On the plus side, at least their points cost would be balanced.
(Fantasy Flight Games produces Twilight Imperium, the XCOM board game, the X-Wing miniatures game, and a whole bunch of other board games. They are notorious for their token fetish.)
Image credit: JT Custom Tackle, used without permission.
Check out these miniatures!
You can see more photos and read the full writeup on Polygon. I'm just thinking of all the uses for Portal minis now:
Give one of our Shas'uis a portal gun
Make the companion cube an objective marker
Surprise RPG players by changing the "dungeon" into a test chamber
Just imagine teaching someone to play Fate, Dungeon World, or Pathfinder by throwing their character into the Enrichment Centre. ^^ Or using the slices of cake (not pictured above) as victory points in 40k or another game.
... did I mention I am apparently good at impersonating GLaDOS?
The summer sun here in the south hasn't been treating us well, which is part of the reason we've been afk. >_o But we're going with the "Capsule Contingency" idea, by popular demand, and have been writing up an application form for it and stuff.
We'll have it posted as soon as we can. We just wanted to let everyone know that we hadn't forgotten. >_>b
The following is from me rambling at aliaspseudonym on Skype, after spending hours trying to untangle this cursed mind knot of how I actually feel about different miniatures games. I'm copy-and-pasting it here because it reads like the draft of an essay, which I just wrote extemporaneously.
9:21 PM Jewelfox feels like 40k's story is actually one of its big selling points, but not in the way you'd expect >_>
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Life events have kind of thrown us for a loop lately, with a romantic relationship ending under extremely unfortunate circumstances and sudden housing insecurity to worry about. ^^; We've been talking to aliaspseudonym and burning_ground about what we can do to avoid eviction ... in the meantime, offers of help or support are very much appreciated, especially with the housing situation.
EDIT: We're still reeling from the breakup, but I think we've worked out the housing thing. So no worries ...
In the meantime, here are some photos and recollections of the more positive side of our life. We've gotten into several games at the store, and our myrmidons are now basically finished:
Yesterday, after a harrowing trip into the next city over to refill our prescription, we met up with the woman we ran into last week to play Warmachine versus her Hordes list.
For those of you who aren't familiar with the game(s), Warmachine and Hordes are sort of like playing a tag-team fighting game. You each pick a warcaster (or warlock, in Hordes) and a small group of either robots or monsters that character can control, and you win by defeating your opponent's character. There are things like infantry units and siege engines, the same as in large-scale games like 40k, but those are all optional add-ons.
She was using the Legion of Everblight half of the Hordes two-player boxed set, while we brought the Retribution of Scyrah starter battlegroup plus our Arcantrik Force Generator (the big model on the right in the pic up there). So basically, she had a squad of Ogrun spear-throwers to go with her monsters, while we had a big lazor gun and our myrmidons. Both of our lists had 21 points' worth of models.
We made a newb mistake early on when we moved our warcaster, Kaelyssa, up into the threat range of pretty much every one of our opponent's models. She had her warlock, Lylyth, nail Kae with a couple of arrows, and that brought her health bar down by like 4/5.
We managed to pull back though, and had our myrmidons do most of the up-close fighting like they're supposed to. The three of them finished off the big warbeast in one turn of blade-swinging, while our battle engine kept blowing craters in the battlefield from long range. I think that it taught our opponent not to leave her models clumped together!
Just for fun
It was really a fun, casual game though, and we both strategized out loud while reminding each other of the rules. The best part was right towards the end, when our forces had made short work of most of hers but she had a single lesser warbeast close enough to charge Kaelyssa. We both spent like 10 minutes trying to figure out how to improve its chances of making a last-ditch warcaster assassination. One of our myrmidons ended up killing it as it ran past, but I think if it'd made it then she would have won!
So, we had a lot of fun on this outing. But the best part was that she used the correct pronouns for us without our even telling her. ^^; She didn't give us any trouble about our models' pronouns, either.
Stay tuned for next week, when our Tau secure some objectives for the Greater Good ~
Today we went down to the games store to play BattleTech. There's a small but loyal group of fans who play the original skirmish minis game there, in its modern incarnation which doesn't look out of place on the shelf even if its rules are still 80's-tastic.
For the uninitiated, BattleTech is basically what happened when North American military history enthusiasts got ahold of the first Macross Saga anime VHS cassette tapes, and officially licensed its mecha designs for a tabletop "wargame" of the kind that was state-of-the-art back then. Most people aren't into that kind of thing, so you're more likely to have heard of the MechWarrior series, which are PC and console games set in the BattleTech 'verse.
Over the decades, BattleTech has had tons of lore written for it, of a sort which is actually kind of refreshing coming from Warhammer 40,000. Because while "40k" fetishizes neo-feudalism, BattleTech deconstructs it, in much the same vein as Analogue: A Hate Story. The giant "mechs" shooting at each other are largely a backdrop for stories of political intrigue and interpersonal drama, each of which serves to underscore just how dysfunctional societies are in their time and have been throughout history.
Case in point: The recently released House Kurita Handbook, which we're dying to get our hands on, describes an interstellar realm which deliberately regressed to be an echo of feudal Japan ... or at least, of the parts of it that future space settlers idealized. Including state Shinto shrines devoted largely to warrior ancestors and the Coordinator, and not so much to nature or traditional gods.
Our personal BattleTech character -- we create one for every game -- is a shrine maiden at one of the few which enshrine Inari Ōkami, in our headcanon. Because this is a mecha anime, some of the miko are entrusted with the shrine's ancient BattleMechs, a "lance" of four with widely varying capabilities. They are some of the few women who were allowed to pilot these vehicles before Theodore Kurita's military reforms, and over the years they have been subordinated so much to the male-only DCMS that they are not even permitted to use live ordnance.
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Before I came out as trans, I wrote stories about “becoming your fursona,” or a furry-fied version of your “true self,” which were meant to encourage people who were hurting because who they were was not accepted by the people around them.
When I started writing these stories, I was still Mormon. And as someone who’d just entered the furry community, I was getting to know a lot of LGBT individuals, who honestly didn’t seem any different from the people around them despite what I’d been told. This put me in a quandary: How do I encourage people to be their “true selves" if their “true self” is someone the prophets have said is a pervert? [CN: Homophobia]
I had to choose one or the other.
Some of them, mostly orcs, boasted of their ancestors’ deeds and spoke of their pride in adopting those ancestors’ names. She had been so different—only sixteen, a boy in everyone’s eyes but her own, about to choose and declare her name before the khan and all the Mardu.
The khan had walked among the warriors, hearing the tales of their glorious deeds. One by one, they declared their new war names, and each time, the khan shouted the names for all to hear. Each time, the horde shouted the name as one, shaking the earth.
Then the khan came to Alesha. She stood before him, snakes coiling in the pit of her stomach, and told how she had slain her first dragon. The khan nodded and asked her name.
“Alesha,” she said, as loudly as she could. Just Alesha, her grandmother’s name.
“Alesha!” the khan shouted, without a moment’s pause.
And the whole gathered horde shouted “Alesha!” in reply. The warriors of the Mardu shouted her name.
-- The Truth of Names [CN: Violence]
There are those who would say that I made the wrong choice. But the only reason I had to choose to begin with, the only reason trans people’s existence in person or in stories is a political issue, is because the people who say that are terrible people.
And they are afraid that the people around them are not what they look like.
So, I spent much of today reading comments and forum posts by Warhammer 40,000 players, for some reason. (This doesn't only apply to them, though; it has a lot to do with Pathfinder and video games as well.)
40k players spend an awful lot of time complaining online, it feels like. But what's interesting to me is what they choose to complain about. Roughly half of the forum-goers I saw were complaining about the company that makes the Warhammer models; how Games Workshop's latest rulebook ruined their fun, invalidated their strategies, and obsoleted their favourite models.
Some of their stories are really sad. "40K" players invest dozens or hundreds of hours in their cherished pastime, sometimes in just a single model, and it shows. Far from looking for an excuse to complain, the most upset players seemed more like betrayed lovers, who had given and given and given and were rewarded with Games Workshop's scorn.
The other half ... were complaining about the first half.
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I don't know where I'm going with this. It's late, and I'm tired and rambly.
I just feel like, the less inequality there is between players and game publishers -- and between the players and each other -- the less fighting and arguing there seems to be, and the more creative freedom there is.
I like the Tau model collection I'm building, but I feel more at home with game players and companies which treat me with respect.
We just came back from a one-off game of the Firefly RPG, that rev_yurodivy really wanted to go to, where we played the crew of the Serenity.
(We were River and Yuro was Simon, in case you were curious.)
If you have any questions, ask Yuro, because they were more awake than we were (and we only watched the movie besides).
Here's what our table looked like the other night:
The gray miniatures on the right are the Circle Orboros force from the Hordes 2-player boxed set. We’ve attached them all to their bases (except for one Argus we’re going to try to pin later on), and they’re ready to join our Retribution of Scyrah warcaster and myrmidons (the ones on the left) for some actual gameplay.
Now we just need to prime, paint, and base them, not necessarily in that order. >_>b As you can see, we’ve got a small collection of paints that we’re planning on using for both tiny armies, as well as the Legion of Everblight (rawr monsters) force that came in the two-player set.
The painted mini on the stand, near our laptop, is Galadaeros, a huge copper dragon. He’s one of three that came with the D&D Attack Wing starter set, which we picked up after being wowed by the dragons’ sculpts. Remind me to write about my impressions of that game; we and rev_yurodivy both thought it was fast-paced and fun!